As a high school student I remember learning about Abraham Maslow, who has created a hierarchy of human needs that he believed had to be satisfied in order to reach happiness. Initially the pyramid consisted of 5 stages and was later revised and expanded by adding 3 more that include cognitive, aesthetic and transcendence needs. He believed that a person does not feel the second need until the demands of the first have been satisfied, nor the third until the second has been satisfied, and so on.
- Basic and Physiological Needs
- Safety Needs
- Belongingness and Love Needs
- Esteem Needs
- Cognitive Needs
- Aesthetic Needs
At that time this was new to me and I recall trying to figure out what stage I was at; it looked like I was barely reaching the third one. Have thought back then: This can’t be right! So he actually means that people cannot be happy until all those needs are satisfied? I felt that I was already happy as a child, even though I didn’t have it all from a materialistic point of view. But I had great parents that loved me, good friends to surround myself with, and my overall basic needs were met.
The school has presented us the theory and demanded to know it by heart. They did NOT encourage us to think for ourselves nor discuss it by sharing our opinions; instead, the expectation was to simply accept it as a fact. Back then I was too young and had little experience to come up with solid arguments to demonstrate my point of view, but now I feel the need to express my way of seeing it.
While I do agree that Maslow’s needs are described accurately, I’ve come to realize from my own experience, as well as years of learning, that in many cases people can reach the self-actualized stage when going through hardship – it’s only then when some are trying to find their life’s meaning, to seek a higher purpose, and to have a better understanding of what it takes to be happy.
You may have heard about famous people who seem to have it all but in the same time feel depressed and can’t find satisfaction in anything. On the other hand, through examining cultures in which large numbers of people live in poverty it has become clear that they’re still capable of higher order needs such as love, compassion and happiness.
Below are the 15 characteristics of a self-actualized person that Maslow has identified:
1. They perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty
2. Accept themselves and others for what they are
3. Spontaneous in thought and action
4. Problem-centered (not self-centered)
5. Unusual sense of humor
6. Able to look at life objectively
7. Highly creative
8. Resistant to acculturation, but not purposely unconventional
9. Concerned for the welfare of humanity
10. Capable of deep appreciation of basic life-experience
11. Establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people
12. Have a clear sense of what is true and what is false
13. Need for privacy
14. Spontaneous and creative; not bound too strictly by social conventions
15. Strong moral/ethical standards
I know people who have satisfied the first 4 stages and still feel unhappy. You can have it all: be surrounded by your material abundance, the love of others, the job/ the house/ the car you’ve always wanted and you can still feel unhappy. That’s the part they don’t tell you. And that’s because Happiness Is A Choice! It’s a state of mind that you can proactively choose to have – but it’s not an easy task to accomplish, and will explain why.
About 90% of our processing power comes from our subconscious mind, and only the rest of 10% from our conscious one – in other words, you might think that you operate from your conscious mind but in reality, your subconscious mind is running the show. And once your willpower weakens, your subconscious mind takes over.
Inside your subconscious mind are your core beliefs, your values, your instincts and desires, your talents and daily habits, etc. So when you have a core belief deeply rooted in your subconscious mind, that belief itself will determine your views and your actions – unless, you decide to take control and change it. Our subconscious mind doesn’t have the power to reject anything – only our conscious mind can do that. So whatever you give to it, will accept. Thus, you can consciously choose to be happy, although it may seem quite hard in the beginning if you’re not a naturally positive person.
So how can you do that? Work with autosuggestions. They are intended to reprogram your subconscious and work quite well when repeated consistently. Affirmations need to be said in a positive way and the best time to repeat them is right before you fall asleep or upon waking up, because you have the best access to your subconscious in those moments – I’ve personally done that several times and can confirm that it works.
It’s quite surprising how much there is to learn about our minds and our potential. I also believe there’s no universal truth for what makes one happy, because we’re all unique and have different preferences or goals – instead, it’s a matter of choice and at the end, it’s up to each of us to decide how we want to live our lives.
Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality.~ Earl Nightingale